Uday Shankar speaks up about IPL 2020 in Covid times

The Disney Star India chairman says a strict broadcast safety protocol is being put in place.

MUMBAI: Disney Star India chairman Uday Shankar seems to thrive in crisis moments. The ongoing pandemic seems to have brought out the best in the former journo. The world’s most prestigious and valued cricket tournament the Indian Premier League (IPL) – on which he had betted big three years ago by bidding unheard of acquisition fees – is taking place in the UAE come 19 September after it was aborted in March end.  For only the third time in its 13 years of  existence it is being held in a foreign land.

And it's taking place in very trying circumstances:  Covid 2019 is on a rampage in India and cases are rapidly rising every day and the CSK team has reported that one of its players and many of its staffers have contracted the SARSCov2 virus – that’s even before a single ball has been bowled.

Hence, Uday and his team are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that it runs smoothly at least from the broadcast end. Speaking to The Times of India, he said that “Star has been working on its own bio-secure bubble. The challenge that has been presented to my team is to deliver an exciting IPL, while keeping every crew member and team member totally safe from the pandemic. That remains our top priority. It’s not an easy one because there are no global role models for something like this.”

The Disney Star India team has put in place the bio-secure bubble in Mumbai to accomodate 400-plus staffers across six floors of the production facility which has been set up for the IPL.  Staffers will be rigorously tested – pre-screened, tested before taking them in and periodic testing will be resorted during their stay in the production hub. “Stringent sanitization and social distancing protocols at production facilities and multiple zones are being set up to keep teams separated,” explained Uday. 

He added that the same stringent Covid-related protocols will be followed for 65-70 days at the three stadiums with around 700 plus crew and around 90 commentators working across UAE, India and globally.

The crew’s output will reach 100 countries, result in seven fully customised broadcast feeds across languages and 18 hours of daily live and special programming around the IPL, Uday further shared.

“IPL has gone out of India twice, but this exercise is going to be phenomenal… The BCCI is the umbrella under which everybody operates, and they have a right to expect full safety and reassurance from us …The onus is on us to take the responsibility,” he said. “The protocol we’ve designed for this IPL can become a global benchmark for any tournament to be held safely….In the end, we all know, it’s a virus and anything can happen, but we would like to have a very clear conscience that we put our best foot forward.”

Even though there won’t be spectators in the stadia in Abhu Dhabi, Sharjah and Duba, Uday expects TV viewership to cross 550 million in India across live broadcast and beyond live programming. “There’s been a massive drought of live sport. People have been in a state of mind where they need a break from the last few months and IPL is ideally positioned for that. We are very focused on making sure the fan experience at home is not impacted. Technology has only made the engagement of the fans deeper and wider,” he averred.

Uday further highlighted that the IPL coming back could be viewed in a more positive light. “At a time when the country has been gripped by concerns, and people have mostly been spending time locked indoors, something as important to their lives as the IPL coming back is highly symbolic of the triumph of things positive over things negative,” he expounded. “IPL is India’s only global brand and one of the top sports properties globally too. This year’s IPL is a professional and personal commitment.”

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